my guest today, renzo piano, is the architect of that building. the london shard. renzo is one of the world's most accomplished and fated architects, and one used to dividing opinion. he designed paris's pompidou centre. he has taken on high—profile developments all over the world. his latest creation is already loved, but it is also loathed. one critic described it as a monument to wealth and power, run way out of control. so what does it say about us and why build so big? renzo piano, welcome to hardtalk.
now, this building is tall. it's now the tallest, now, in the european union. why? what — what's the statement by building it so tall? i don't really remember. the reason why is the tallest, i don't remember. i don't really care. it was — it was actually taller, in the beginning. it was 400 metre. but then they said that you cannot because it would interfere with the flight of aeroplanes. so we stopped. the building is now 310 metres. we still desired to go up to 400. so this idea was almost not finished. some people believe it is not finished. but it is simply desiring to go
higher, but not going higher. this idea that a building does not finish. it stands like that. the last piece of glass stays like there. if you need them to go, they can go up. this is part of the game. we did not try to make the tallest building in europe. it did happen. itjust happened by chance? it happened by chance. because if you want to put all of those functions, because this building has at least six or seven different functions — it is like a little vertical city. it is like a village. you have transportation, public transportation — you start with the two main underground lines. you come up and you have trains and buses. you have shop, you have office, you have a public space, you have a hotel,
and then we have the viewing platform. it is a long time since you first drew the plans for it. when you are designing something and thinking about what it must look like, to then, now you are in a situation for the past few months where it is approaching complete, how do you feel about it? that's a big point, because as an architect, if you make something wrong, it is wrong forever. if you are a musician, you make music, you understand that something is wrong. because what you do is the real thing. then you do it again. when you make a sculpture, what you judge in front of you is the sculpture. if you are making architecture, you do notjudge the real thing. you judge the drawing of the real thing. the model. the rendering. you have to use your imagination.
you need to figure out what it will be in reality. that would suggest that if there is something wrong with it, you cannot fix it. exactly. that's the tragedy. that's the reason why, as an architect, it is a very dangerous job to perform. dangerous for you, but even more dangerous for other people, because if you do something wrong, it is forever. so what did you think when you saw it? what did you think was wrong? i think it is fine. but justifying? —— but just butjustifying? —— butjust fine? i stopped crossing my fingers a few months ago. you do everything you can to make it right. but the truth is that you understand if it is right or wrong only then. when it's built. i'll tell you if i think it is right. but i did not know exactly. i wasn't sure. to listen to you, it seems to me that you think it might not perhaps
be good enough? what is wrong with it? in school, i grew up with the idea that other people are always better than you. and so you — i grew up with the idea that what you do is maybe fine — surprisingly fine — but probably not good enough. so you grow up thinking that other people are better than you and et cetera, et cetera. even now, 75, i still feel that every time i do something right, it is a miracle. it is something surprising. so i don't live in the sensation that everything i do is right. it's always — it's always a great surprise. it would be quite hard to live in that — not least because of some of the comments made, and particularly about this. one of the criticisms that it is out of proportion. here you are outside the tower bridge and st paul's, and you have this massive glass shard.
simon jenkins, the chairman of the national trust said that "this tower is anarchy — it conforms to no planning policy." "it seems to have lost its way from dubai to canary wharf." i know that criticism. i think it is wrong. one of the most important things for an architect because we are making a dangerous job is to listen to people. but listening is one of the most important things to learn, but not the easiest to learn. it does not mean you listen and then you are obedient. you listen to understand. one thing you have to do when you do this kind of building is to listen to people and accept criticism. for thisjob, we went through a public inquiry. it lasted almost two years. a public inquiry is not something usual in this country. you only do it for big things
and complicated things. and they decided to do this. for the arguments — the arguments were thrashed out. the argument was whether it was right or wrong. another criticism levelled against it is that in a sense it is a metaphor for wealth and power. an art critic says it is a monument to wealth and power runaway out of control. a flashing warning sign of disease. yeah, you know, ithink of different things. on this one, i think there is a lot of distortion on this one. when you go through this building and you realise that what is open to the viewing platform will be
visited by 5,000 people per day. the office will be used by something like 5,000 people per day. they are not rich people. you have to pay £25 to go up on that viewing platform. £25 is too much. in this town, everything costs £25. i told them it was too much. i tried. what did they say? everybody says that in this town, everything costs at least £25. but it doesn't. i told my colleague, i was with my wife to go around to all of those little shows on the bottom. they all cost £25—30. the london eye costs £28—30. it is too expensive. i agree because one of the aims of this building is to give london to people — back
to the people. and to be public. and for some, costing £25 is too much. that's for sure. but the answer is that anyawy, that this is the normal price. if you go to new york, if you go to the top of the empire state building, you spend more than that. one of the measures, as you say, is that whether it is a metaphor to wealth and power, rather than to the people. i think it is wrong. i think it is a bigot, i don't know if you can use this word. because in italian, it means we have something a bit too moralistic. if you look more carefully, you will find that this building will be used every day by ten thousand people at least. how much of the building is left? i think it is only the restaurant... the — the — the... the hotel? the hotel. this part, the others, they are still discussing. but they are not let
because they do not find a tenant. they are not let because they have their own policy. and the policy of those people, we believe, mean that they wait for the right moment to rent and all that. they want it to be empty? is that what you're saying? yes. up until the building being finished. the building will be finished in about six months, one year. because the hotel will open injune. the rest will... the official public opening of this building was last summer. we have not heard anything about the occupants. that is because a building is like a city. you do not open a building in a single day. you bring energy across the river. and then, then you make public transportation. then you make a vertical city. it is not one of those buildings that closes in the evening. and you know, i think that all of this discussion about the fact that this building is — is a kind of monument to money isjust a distortion.
because, because... it will not be proven by events, you say? yes, i am sure. because you talk about this vertical city... i am very pragmatic. and i am very keen about that, because at my age, i grew up knowing that by making architecture, you have to be a good builder, that's for sure. your father was a builder. you have to be a poet. you have to be a poet, but you have to be militant. you have to be a social worker. you have to have this kind of ethical dimension. so i'm very keen about that. the argument is very simple. this building will be lived daily by 10,000 people per day. some will be rich. but no more than 50 or 60 people. you have made so many different types of building all around the world. and you look at your work, whether it's art galleries, museums in the united states, churches in europe, an airport terminal injapan...
you have done so many different types. and you look at them and they are all unique. there is no singular or something that would stand out as a "renzo piano style" of architecture. and i wonder if when you look at all of those, what is most rewarding for you in the architecture, as an architect? is it that you see, from what you said before it is not the tallest building, not the most striking... yeah, i think that what is rewarding to me is to be part of the human adventure of being an architect. you know, the reason why — why — why i... i am very diffident to the world's style — not just for architecture, but for everybody — for writers, for musicians — is a kind of golden cage. you get trapped in the style. and then you have to repeat it.
what is great about architecture or a job likejournalism or movie—making or many other things is the adventure. the sense of adventure. the architect is like a kind of like a robinson crusoe. you know, that landed... robinson crusoe landed in a new island every time and made a new adventure. and this exactly what happens. so if you are trapped in your own style, you have to repeat it. is that the changing of people ‘s lives? —— is it changing people's lives? if you ask me about language and style, there is a lot of this language of coherence. and there is a lot of coming from your i believe. —— your childhood.
i was born in genoa, in a city of sea and water, where everything flies. it is a fantastic city. made of stone and water. stone in the historical centre, water on the harbour. and in the water, everything floats, everything flies — from the ships to the cranes — the ships, they do not touch ground, the ships are buoyed. if you look at my age for the trace of what i can call — not style, but coherence, language, vocabulary, i will think about that. and yet here we are in a building that is very much of a certain fashion, the glass. i mean, prince charles has said, "i'm afraid that the building tends very quickly to become unfashionable, tired, outdated, no longer contemporary. within 30 or a0 years, it is ripe for demolition and replacement."
he also refers to "energy guzzling glass boxes." i remember the world of the judge. they made thejudgement of the public inquiry. thejudge after 18 months of discussion, he said, even st paul's at the time was modern. and it was controversial. if it is good, it is good. every classic has been at a certain moment modern and contemporary. will this become a classic like st paul's cathedral? no idea. i'd be arrogant to say so. i am saying for me the problem is not to be classical or to be modern, it is to be good or to be bad. if you are good, there is nothing wrong. european cities have layers of different moments,
celebrating and representing their time. if you represent your time with something good at what is wrong? are you good or not? i do not trust prince charles‘sjudgement. i think this building will be great for centuries. it's not arrogant. it is actually very light, it is like a crystal presence, it is not killing anything. it is very gentle. so you do not trust his judgement on this building, do you trust hisjudgement on other architecture? he's quite right on many points by criticising modern architecture... we have to be honest. modern architecture has created disasters many times. but you cannot
solve your problem by turning your back on modernity. i prefer not to talk too much about that. i know that in everybody‘s judgement, there is always something good to take, but for me, but there is one thing important, you have to be yourself. if you live in a time that is the 21st century, you have to belong to it. what is quite interesting is that you are talking about vertical cities. in a way, that was a fashion at a certain time, streets in the sky. now there is a move away from high—rises because people do not want to live on top of each other. you can create denser, more efficient, better living space with old —fashioned terraces. this is wrong. i am sorry. it is totally wrong. today, the 21st century, the most important discovery is the fragility of earth.
the most unsustainable thing that you can think of are the periphery, the sprawl of little cottages and houses. forget it. it is impossible. it is not sustainable in any sense. it's just a romantic idea. but it is not possible. so in energy terms, a glass building like this is better? it spends 10 times less. it is better than little villas. this building, with the system we use for keeping the things out is incredibly efficient... even if you are tackling the problems of the banlieue, paris suburbs, you would suggest that you put these high—rises, you would create cities on the peripheries? i am not saying so.
the solution of the cities is not to make a new periphery. it is not solved by making new periphery and creating new tragedy. the solution is not expansion by explosion. the solution is expansion by implosion. the opposite. it is the only sustainable road. especially in a city like london. it is to grow from inside, building on what we call brownfield. in brownfield, in london, lots of brownfields. even in berlin, i built on brownfield. it was the little space left between the east and west. in cities, dense like barcelona... there is always the possibility to grow. it doesn't mean that i preach the value of putting tall buildings everywhere. i say that sometimes.
a building like this one, it makes sense to go up and show... can i ask you finally about how you judge the success of a building? because i happened to recognise you outside out on the street. you were spying on people, listening to hear what they were saying about it? is that how you judge the success? this is my personal way.
not because i am a perverse person, but i learnt that a long time ago after i did the pompidou centre in paris, roberto rossellini, he was making a movie. he was watching me. he said, you should not look at the building, you should see the face of people looking at the building. you have to look at the mirror of the building on the face of people. since then, i did the same thing. i do it in the most natural way i can. i listen and i watch people.
what do you see? surprise, wonder. not fear. many say, oh, this is the way, we are here. they use the building as a new reference in this city. they find their way by it. sometimes they argue over whether it is finished. the problem is very simple. i do not like to surprise people. i don't like to be controversial. but if you are an architect, and you don't waste your time with stupid things, you find yourself celebrating shifts in the society. in some way, that is what happened.
a long time ago, and we were young bad boys, we got to celebrate a big shift in society. with the pompidou centre. it changed the way that people thought of you. caused a big fuss. someone had to do the dirtyjob. we need a place creating curiosity and welcome. in between, i had done many other things like that, in chicago. here, it is the same thing. as an architect, you don't change the world, but celebrate the change. renzo piano, thank you for coming on hardtalk. a cold night out there
and frost on the way. first thing on friday morning you might even have to scrape your car windows. the good news is that the weather is looking good. lots of sunshine around. lots of clear, crisp autumn weather on the way. on thursday we saw a cold front moving across the uk and behind the cold front we have colder air and that cold is in place right across the country right now. through the course of the night these have cleared the cold front out on the continent there. temperatures in towns and cities around three degrees. in rural spots it could be as low as minus four celsius just before sunrise. really chilly nights out there.
the cold nights won't last for very long. we have some slightly milder weather on the way. more on that in just a second. this is what it looks like around eight o'clock in the morning on friday. a slightly different story in scotland. not quite the sunny skies. plenty of showers around in the western isles and the north of scotland. quite strong winds. across northern ireland, wales, and much of england it is a crisp start to the day. you can see the city centre temperatures around 2—3 degrees. even three degrees in the centre of london, which is pretty nippy and for exeter at eight o'clock in the morning. beautiful morning on the way right across the uk. quite a wind blowing across scotland and particularly the far north, even touching gale force at times. showers moving in. some of the showers will be wintry, particularly across the hills. a polar air mass from the northern climes. temperatures will get up to only about eight degrees for most of us. that is briedfly. earlier in the day it will be lower than that. it looks like we are in for another
clear and cold friday night. that will not last for very long. there is some cloud and light rain heading our way. saturday morning looks like it will be cloudy across many parts of england and wales, particularly in the south. by the time we get to about lunchtime those clouds will start to break up and there will be some sunshine on the way. saturday, sdmittedly, is looking a little bit mixed. sunday we are between weather systems. 0ne weather system in the baltic and one in the atlantic. we are in a weak area of high pressure. there will be some sunshine around, particularly in eastern areas. there is a low in the atlantic heading our way and the anticipation is that there will be cloud and rain spinning into some western and south—western areas a little bit later on on sunday. as i said, the cold air will not last for very long, by the time we get to sunday night and into monday the cold air is swept away and the milder atlantic and returns. goodbye. welcome to newsday on the bbc. i'm mariko 0i in singapore. the headlines: a president with no power — zimbabwe's robert mugabe meets the army chief who placed him
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